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Exit Wounds


Exit Wounds

EXIT WOUNDS is a keeper. The prominent blurb on the cover --- “Nineteen Tales of Mystery from the Modern Masters of Crime” --- does not lie. While several of the authors featured here are arguably better known in Great Britain than in the United States, the quality of their contributions leave one wondering why this is so.

Furthermore, the anthology’s careful selection of stories is almost evenly split between those that have never been published and those that have appeared in print before, but (mostly) in obscure or limited circulation publications. Indeed, perhaps the book’s most interesting inclusion is “Kittens,” a story by Dean Koontz that appeared in its original form in 1966 in a student publication and was somewhat revised in 1995. The title may be warm and fuzzy, but it is a chilling horror story in the truest sense of the word.

"You will make a number of new and wonderful reading friends. It’s a collection not to be missed of stories that will not be forgotten."

In their introduction to this fine anthology, Paul B. Kane and Marie O’Regan note that the stories were selected around the theme of an “exit.” I'm not sure if that accurately describes each and every story that you will encounter in EXIT WOUNDS, but that’s not a problem. The diversity among the stories demonstrates the breadth and depth of the thriller genre in a manner that few similar collections of recent note have done. And even though I’ve started, I’m not quite sure where to begin. Let’s continue with the writers. One of my favorite aspects of the book is that it includes stories from authors --- I’m thinking John Connolly, Mark Billingham, Jeffery Deaver, Christopher Fowler and Lee Child --- whose primary body of work is novel-length. What each of them offers is quite different from what one might expect in terms of the subject matter. The quality, however, remains first-rate.

To describe but two of them, Connolly is at his horrific best but far removed in time, place and person from the present, Maine and Charlie Parker in “On the Anatomization of an Unknown Man (1637) by Franz Mier,” in which a work of art may or may not have had voluntary models. Similarly, Fowler --- best known for his unique Bryant & May series --- takes a much darker turn with “Lebensraum,” which concerns an elderly woman whose act of kindness sweeps her into the path of a political movement.

As for my favorite stories, I have to give you three, each for a different reason.

First: “Booty and the Beast” by Joe R. Lansdale is about hidden treasure and what occurs when those who do not have it attempt to take it away from those who have. As one might expect from a Lansdale story, alliances shift, turns twist and blood is shed. There is also just a tiny bit of a supernatural factor that is hinted at and then blown up on the final page. Or is it? Interestingly enough, “Booty and the Beast” is the only story in EXIT WOUNDS where I did not guess the ending.

Second: “The Consumers” by Dennis Lehane. This is the only story in the collection that I had previously read, but it stands up incredibly well the second time around. The basic plot thread is a familiar one --- a very wealthy woman hires a hitman to do in her unscrupulous husband --- but it contains an unsettling twist that, even if you see it coming, is still a surprise.

Third: “Happy Holidays” by Val McDermid, which is set in her Tony Hill & Carol Jordan universe. While it is short fiction, you will not notice the abbreviated page length as the occasionally troubled pair solve two apparently unlinked murders and race to prevent a third, all while working to successfully resolve the abduction of Santa Claus. This tale will send you racing to McDermid’s catalog to read what you should have been reading all along.

I truly wish that there was more space to give due justice to all who are included in EXIT WOUNDS. Stories --- each and all of them memorable --- are offered by Fiona Cummins, Sarah Hilary, Martyn Waites, Alex Gray, Steph Broadribb, A.K. Benedict, James Oswald, Paul Finch and Louise Jensen. You will make a number of new and wonderful reading friends. It’s a collection not to be missed of stories that will not be forgotten.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on May 24, 2019

Exit Wounds
edited by Paul B. Kane and Marie O’Regan